Judy Finnigan vs the offencerati
British TV presenter Judy Finnigan has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for causing offence on Monday lunchtime’s Loose Women show on ITV1. As well she might, given the tidal wave of furious tweets and Facebooked outrage from the ‘offencerati’ that came her way. So what did she say that was so outrageous? What did she utter that was so morally vile? Loose Women is a sometimes raucous, grown-up show, so she must have said something shocking, right?
Well, no, not really. All Finnigan said was that the rape for which footballer Ched Evans was imprisoned in 2012 ‘was not violent’: ‘He didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person… It was unpleasant, in a hotel room, I believe, and she was – she had far too much to drink… and you know, that is reprehensible, but he has been convicted and he has served his time.’ She went on to say: ‘Now when he comes out, what are we supposed to do? Just actually refuse to let him do his job?’
That’s it, folks. It was just someone giving her opinion on a, er, chat show. But, these days, having an opinion that is not-the-one-you-should-have can land you in all sorts of trouble. And often, until you apologise and promise never to think or say it again, you will be punished – in many cases, quite seriously. That is what is shocking, not Finnigan’s comments.
Finnigan’s public apology was revealing, too. ‘I apologise unreservedly for any offence that I may have caused as a result of the wording I used’, she said, which is really a way of saying she stands by what she thinks but is sorry that it caused such a furious reaction. She may even believe that if she had worded it better, all would have been fine. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t matter how she said it; the offencerati took up their cudgels because Finnigan had the audacity to question whether Evans should be booted out of football for a crime for which he has served his time. Worse still, she questioned whether the rape could be described as violent. She hadn’t read the rules: don’t think outside our tiny mindset; think nothing but evil thoughts about the wrong-doer; and do not treat a convicted rapist as someone deserving of a second chance.
As it happens, Finnigan’s argument is perfectly legitimate. But even if it wasn’t, even if she spouted bigoted nonsense, we still need to defend her right to say what she thinks. If we don’t, then our freedom to say what we think becomes a privilege, something handed down to us by our supposed betters. Their mantra is simple: say the right thing, or else.
Viv Regan is managing editor of spiked.
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